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Amber Alert Worked, Despite Glitch

Amber Alert Worked, Despite Glitch

Posted - May 8, 2003 at 5:47 p.m.



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John Daley reporting An 11-year old girl, who vanished from Minnesota was found safe in Utah after officials here issued an Amber Alert.

Cindy Bruno of St. Cloud, Minnesota, was found in the van pulled over by a highway patrol sergeant late yesterday. The alert clearly helped find the girl, despite a glitch that prevented the information from getting out to broadcasters.

The Amber Alert system is very new and law enforcement is still working out the kinks. One problem last night was the Alert was faxed to KSL Radio, which is responsible for notifying all of the state's broadcasters. However, there was never a call from state officials to tell KSL Radio the fax was on the way.

Last night, the Amber Alert system worked exactly as it should with one notable exception. Police in St. Cloud Minnesota notified Provo police about the suspected kidnapping of 11-year-old Cindy Bruno. Through the Department of Public Safety, the Amber Alert was activated. And soon, by remarkable coincidence, a police officer spotted the suspect's vehicle on the road in Summit County and made the arrest.

Thanks to the Amber Alert, Cindy Bruno was safe.

Sgt. Randall Richie/Utah Highway Patrol: "I HAD STARTED WONDERING RIGHT ABOUT THE TIME I SAW A GREEN MINI VAN GO BY."

But the Amber Alert system is still very much a work in progress. When Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped, the system wasn't activated until several hours after the abduction and cost police critical time.

The Smart case helped lead to national Amber Alert legislation, which was signed last week.

As the system was activated last night, freeway signs carried the message. Truckers were notified and pagers went off. But, one significant detail slipped through the cracks.

A fax at 7:24 PM from the state's dispatch center to the broadcast coordinator,KSL Radio, was never followed up with a phone call, and broadcasters never put a crawl on the air.

Rod Arquette/KSL Radio: "THE MACHINES WERE WORKING JUST FINE. THE HUMAN PART OF IT WAS, THE PHONE CALL DIDN'T COME TO ALERT US TO GO CHECK THE FAX AND GET IT DONE."

Paul Murphy/Utah Attorney General's Office: "WHAT WE NEED IS ONE MORE PHONE CALL BACK TO KSL SO THAT THEY WILL DISTRIBUTE THE INFORMATION AND LOOK FOR THE FAX AND KNOW IT'S THERE. WE HAVE A STOP-GAP MEASURE IN PLACE SO THAT PHONE CALL WILL BE MADE. WE'RE GONNA BE LOOKING AT BETTER WAYS IN THE UPCOMING WEEKS TO MAKE IT EVEN BETTER BEYOND THAT."

Both broadcasters and state officials say each time an alert goes out, they're learning ways to tweak it and make it better. Eventually police hope they can activate the broadcast part of the system by themselves.

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